Compliments will NOT hurt your child: My response to a new parenting trend

I never say something after reading one article about a topic– or even two. I usually don’t even touch it if it seems to be a minority opinion that carries little weight. But this article right here was the article that broke the camel’s back and opened the flood gates to my blog. Big surprise there 😉

I’ve already counted about ten writers who have written on the subject of praise and compliments toward children and everything I’ve read has the same opinion. Compliments, they say, can hold a child back. Saying “You’re so smart with math!” can make a child put less effort into that subject. Saying “Wow you look pretty!” can make a child feel that all they’re worth is what they look like.

Yes, you’ve probably guessed it. About right now I’m rolling my eyes.

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And that’s because this new trendy parenting technique is bogus.

No, I’m not a mom yet and many people would probably tell me I don’t have any room to talk or to give pointers. That’s a fair statement, I suppose, but seeing as how I was once a child and I lead a group of children at church and I did my fair share of child rearing with my little sister growing up and my classroom-size of nieces and nephews I have a teeny bit of room to share my thoughts. So here we go.

Don’t follow the trend. Compliment your child for GOODNESS sake. It won’t kill them. It won’t make them toss aside their interests. It won’t make them turn to a life of drugs or sex. It will only let them know they are appreciated and loved and NOTICED. And that has never been unhealthy. It will never be a bad thing to point out a talent, to compliment a new pretty Easter dress, or to spend the car ride home after soccer practice letting your boy know that his kicks are getting so darn good. It has never hurt and frankly never will.

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My favorite part of my growing up was my parents’ ability to always share what they loved about us. My dad would mention how good my reading was and in turn I devoured every book and wanted to be a BETTER reader for him. My mom would tell me how pretty I was and I decided that yes, I was. And so when middle school came and someone said otherwise I didn’t believe it. My grandma, I remember, would sit with me as I wrote stories in my notepad, and she told me I was her favorite writer. And I’ve never stopped writing. I also never let anyone deter me.

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The compliments, some of these articles state, should simply be tailored. Instead of my parents telling me what a great writer I am the writers claim that they should have made a comment about how much effort I put into my writing instead and what a great ambition that is. That’s ridiculous, to put it mildly.

Your kid will never die from kind words. No one ever will.

Compliments in excess, I’ve seen, can harm a child. I’ll admit to that. We should never build children made of egos, entitlement, or pride that makes them peer down their noses at other children. But our words should be crafted to urge them on in their passions and to help mold and shape the self-esteem and confidence that they’ll carry for the rest of their lives.

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Well, there have been studies, Kayla, you might say. It’s right there in black and white that children shrink away from talents and responsibility or feel self-conscious when you compliment or praise them.

And it’s true I’m no psychologist. But what I DO know is that when I tell my neice Rachel that her fiery red hair is the prettiest color I’ve ever seen she tends to glow. When I tell my primary kids that they are amazing listeners, they tend to listen more intently.

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Kids are impressionable, vulnerable spirits that need to be molded and formed in one way or another. The world will try to form them, at some point, when you aren’t looking. The world tell your child she’s fat. The world will tell your boy he runs like a girl or is too skinny to have girls like him. The world will tell our kids that they’re dumb or slow or not as good as the others. They will hear enough from the world.

They need to hear from us first.

And that needs to sound beautiful.

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The four simple truths that matter most: And why we often forget them

My favorite teachers are three and a half feet tall.

They snort when they laugh, they get sticky hands when they eat suckers, and they hoard the crayons when they draw pictures.

My favorite teachers have barely filled in their school shoes, they still wear bows in their braids, and they dream of being astronauts, doctors, and missionaries in different countries.

They come in the shape of my nieces and nephews–and also my primary kids.

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Primary is a class we teach every sunday at church–and for the past year I’ve seen the same group of kids go from pre-school to Kindergarten. And from barely talking *because they’re playing the shy card* to barely letting me get a word in edgewise.

They’ve been my pseudo-children in a sense–and they’ve been some of my greatest teachers.

It really hit me yesterday how much they’ve grown in front of my very eyes, reminding me every week of why we’re here on earth, what we’re meant to do, and who we’re called to be like. Back to the basics, they teach me. Keep life simple.

And simplicity can be so hard.

Yesterday was one of those *Wow, I’m learning more from these kids than they are from me* days. I have those days a lot. But yesterday was something out of the ordinary, really.

 

I came to church straight from a work meeting, and I was frazzled beyond belief. Is there even enough hours in the day? I’m not convinced quite yet that 24 are enough. My mind was nowhere where it should have been, but I quickly rushed to class and tried to get in the mindset of the lesson.

We were teaching about the holy spirit. As we talked, the kids, one by one, all wanted to share stories. That’s not an uncommon thing really–but these stories seemed uncommon. Uncommonly simple and profound all at the same time. With these stories I was reminded of four simple things that I think we ALL tend to forget as soon as we grow out of our size four shoes, stop coloring out of the lines and no longer consider Spider Man our greatest hero.

It was good to get a reminder.

Kindness matters. 

David–one of the boys in my class– reminded me of a motto that I’ve always tried to live by. He told a story of a little boy in his kindergarten class who isn’t very nice. He says rude things to people and kind of likes to be alone. One day at recess the boy was coloring outside and the breeze whisked away a couple of his pages. Without even thinking David scrambled after them and retrieved the papers, bringing them back to the boy and letting him know that a good trick is to keep the loose papers under his foot while he’s drawing so they won’t blow away. I asked David why he helped the little boy out when he’s been nothing but mean to him. “Because it doesn’t matter how he is,” he responded matter-of-factly. “I’m supposed to be kind.”

How often do we forget kindness? We live in a society and a world where many believe that kindness is something to be earned, deserved, or given if the mood is right. But kindness–in its simplest and truest form–is actually running after those runaway papers in the wind simply because that’s what Christ would do.

Prayer works.

After David’s story, Kali’s hand shot up. It wasn’t about kindness, she prefaced, but prayer. Her dad had recently traveled to Mexico and when he came back from the trip he had given her a charm bracelet with beautiful stones. Well one day, she explained, the bracelet went missing and she couldn’t find it anywhere. She searched and searched and searched and finally she fell on her knees and prayed that she would PLEASE find that pretty bracelet from her Dad. After saying amen she had a feeling to check under the stairs. And there it was. Does Heavenly Father care about your bracelet? I asked. “Probably not,” she shrugged. “But he cares about me.”

Did you think to pray?

Count your blessings–then share them.

I sometimes forget this one and I bet you do too. Count your blessings, we hear. Count your blessing, Name them one by one, we sing. But what good is hoarding the blessings and not sharing them? As I watch these kids I’m reminded of the importance of sharing every piece of everything. They don’t hesitate to tell the new kid in class about Jesus. They don’t hesitate to share their jelly beans or share how to spell the word Heaven on the chalk board. They go to school each day and share with their teachers what they did at church, not even giving a second thought about how it may be perceived. They share the good news of everything that comes their way. Why don’t we?

“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle” is one of my favorite quotes. And as I observe my class I often see a class full of blazing candles–all flaming like torches as they seek out wicks that have dried out.

Follow where others try to lead.

We’re a society aimed toward being revolutionary. Changing the world. Discovering new planets, changing the way politics operate, or being top in sales at our firm. And that’s perfectly okay to aim high. But whatever happened to the virtue of following? In the attempts to forge a new path I think it can be easy to forget that we’ve had many saints, prophets–even the Savior himself– pave the way already. We’ve had pioneers walk miles to reach a common place of rest, hearts all turned toward the same Zion. We’ve had prophets teach the same stories and generations of family members instill the same traditions and morals. We have so many heroes to emulate. “She wants to be just like you,” I’ve had mothers say to me when talking about their kids in my class. They never say, “She hopes to be way better than you”.

There’s so much fear nowadays in mediocrity and not enough desire to uphold the things that generations before us fought for.

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I could honestly go on and on about the things I’ve learned from these kids. But the simple things are my favorite. And the older I get the more I need to be reminded of the basics. The simple things that keep families together and the beggars with change in their pockets. It’s the simple things that were once preached on mountain tops and etched in stone and written by hand on parchment only to be passed down to us. It’s the simple things that turn us from a hardened, bustling, distracted adult into a child again– fresh from Heaven, and at the Savior’s feet. The beauty in the gospel–and in life– lies in its simplicity.

In Matthew 18:3 Jesus said, “…Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven.”
The Kingdom of Heaven is simple. It really, really is.
And I’m grateful to all my three-foot something giants for showing me that.
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There’s nothing wrong with pink: My response to a feminist message

A couple days ago I saw this video–it’s an advertisement for GoldieBlox, a new engineering toy for girls. You might have seen it too, floating around your social media feeds. When I watched this, I instantly felt a little disturbed.

The girls are adorable and it’s a fun set up (I wanted to help build that thing!) but there was a blatant message strewn as subtitles across the screen that rubbed me the wrong way.

In the quirky song it proclaims that girls’ toys all look the same–that there is too much pink and they want to start using their brains.

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And in the very beginning of the video three bored little girls are even watching a princess show that is made out to look like unintelligent jibber jabber. So what do the girls do? They declare, more or less, that boys get all the toys that create an intellectual stretch and they want that too. Even the caption to this viral video states, “Fewer than 3 in 10 graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are women. And barely 1 in 10 actual engineers are women. Early in a girl’s life, the toys marketed to her are usually things that don’t encourage her to enter those fields.”

I call bull.

The lyrics in that video, first off, *I could bet money on it*–weren’t written by little girls. They were written by adults in a society where women want to be empowered and strike down stereotypes to the point where there is no more distinction on what girls may prefer or what boys may prefer. They were written by a world that equates pink and princesses and unicorns and tea sets to a gender that never rises above or gets an education or steps outside of the home.

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Now, just to make sure you don’t take me wrong–I’m not saying girls should be limited to playing with dolls. I just didn’t think that was an issue worth calling out. Growing up, I had a fascination with Hot Wheels cars just as much as I did with my polly pocket collection. I ran around with bare feet in the summer catching frogs and I also loved to prance around the living room in my ballet tutu. There is no “Pink Police” catching girls in the act of doing something that might constitute as a boy behavior. We’re over that hump.

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Liking pink, dancing around in a princess dress one-size too big, and cradling a plastic baby doll isn’t a sign of weakness or unintelligence. It’s how females are often programmed. There have been multiple studies suggesting the scientific reason behind why women are generally drawn to pink more than men are. You can read one study right here.

But science and studies and societal norms aside, it’s time that we take a step back from feminist views and ask ourselves, as women, why we’re so afraid of being feminine. Why do we think the only ticket to Stanford is swearing off polka dots and skirts and being offended at the characteristic of “girly”? Why do we think that the only way to truly strive in today’s world is to break out of the mold that our great grandmothers and great-great grandmothers seemed to follow with their petticoats and sprayed hair and soft hands? Is it because we want to prove we’re somehow better…or smarter?

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One of my favorite actresses is Zooey Deschanel and she said something that really underscores this topic of being feminine in today’s society.

“My theory is that people in this day and age want to dismiss things. So they want to be able to dismiss you,” Deschanel says. “They say, ‘You don’t belong, you don’t deserve this because here’s why, and let me find an intellectual argument for why you wearing pink or cuff sleeves or a bow makes you not worthy of your accomplishments. Everything you’ve done doesn’t matter because you wore the wrong thing or you speak in a way that’s feminine or you identify yourself as feminine.’ And I just think that’s bull****. And smart people are doing it, and that’s surprising to me. I’ll give them being smart, but they’re being very shortsighted.”

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Love that.

Another quote I love is from “The Joy of Womanhood” talk given by Margaret D. Nadauld in 2000. She said, “The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity.”

The truth is–we aren’t put in a box, girls.

We can do anything and be anything.

But there’s nothing wrong with the way my niece’s eyes light up at a huge coloring page of a unicorn or the way my nephew giggles at the sight of a Nerf gun. It’s no “damage” of society that a two-year-old boy would rather kick a tea set than play with it and that a four-year-old girl will cry when he does so and kiss her baby’s head because, in her words, “it made the baby cry”.

Here is the deal sis

These kids haven’t been taught from society yet. They haven’t been told to be tougher or to play with “smarter” toys or to call out for a change on what they unwrap on Christmas day. If the little girls find joy in building blocks too–good. So did I. But that doesn’t mean they’re any smarter or headed down a better path with those toys than when they’re cradling a stuffed kitten with a pink collar.

There is nothing wrong with being feminine, despite what our society says. There’s nothing wrong with tackling an engineering major and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying sports. Likewise, there’s nothing wrong with NOT enjoying those things.

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There’s nothing wrong with NOT being an engineering major either, might I add. You can be a dancer, lost in sparkle and tight hair buns, or a mother with a handful of kiddos–and you are STILL a strong, smart woman who makes an impact on the world.

So, like the video does, I call out for change too.

Stop saying it’s bad to live the stereotypical traits of a girl.

Stop declaring, in essence, with propaganda in commercials and Hollywood and books, that women should become like men and if they exhibit any quality of a typical “girl” they aren’t using their brains or won’t go as far.

Stop taking the feminist movement so far that we lose our femininity.

Because there’s NOTHING wrong with preferring pink.

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